Saturday, 15 March 2014

What happened to John Radcliffe?

John Radcliffe was my 3rd great-grandfather, Kevin Wynne's maternal grandmother's father. Got that? I cannot find what happened to him! But, first, to summarise what I already know about the Radcliffes.

Peter and Anne (Sarsfield) Radcliffe (often spelt Ratcliffe, both variants with and without the ‘e’) set up their home in Yellow Walls, Malahide, Co. Dublin, in the early nineteenth century. Peter seemingly had steady employment at Malahide Castle, where, by 1876, he claimed he had worked as a painter and plasterer for over seventy years.  They rented about four acres of land and a cottage in Yellow Walls, from Lord Talbot of the Castle. (For those that remember, I think the cottage may have been on the Swords Road, where Chris Mahon lived) Presumably, they supplemented Peter’s income by farming this plot for potatoes and other foodstuffs, and maybe even had chickens and a goat.

The baptisms of their seven children, six sons and a daughter, have been found in the records of St Colmcille’s Church, in the nearby town of Swords. In the Roman Catholic division, Malahide formed part of the parish of Swords until well into the twentieth century, so it is not surprising to find these records there.

Peter and Anne Radcliffe were my 4th great-grandparents. Peter died in 1887, at the stated age of ninety years, while Anne predeceased him in 1866. We descend from their son John, who remains somewhat of a mystery. John was baptised on 15 June 1827.
St Colmcille’s baptism register, June 1827

John’s daughter and my great-great-grandmother was Anne Radcliffe. Anne, aged twenty years, with an address in Yellow Walls, married Maurice Carroll in Swords in 1869. Her marriage certificate confirmed her parents as John and Mary Radcliffe. Mary’s maiden name was not stated. John was recorded as being a plasterer by trade, like his father.

No trace of John and Mary’s marriage, Anne’s baptism, or the baptism records of any other children have yet been found. However, the family may have made a brief appearance in Rainhill, Lancashire, England in the 1851 census, where there was a John Ratcliffe, born in Ireland about 1827, who was a plasterer, living with his wife Mary and their daughter Ann, born about 1849. This matches exactly all the little information already known about my great-great-grandmother’s parents.
Enumerator’s Book, Rainhill, 1851, John Ratcliffe and family

Interestingly, John’s ten year old sister-in-law, Ellen Slanety, was living with them. This theoretically provides Mary’s maiden name, but while ‘Slanety’ may sound Irish enough, it does not appear to be a valid surname. Perhaps the enumerator had difficulty understanding the Irish accent – ‘Slaney’ maybe?  If indeed, it is them at all.

I may be wrong, but Anne’s marriage record suggests to me that John was alive in 1869 and possibly living in Yellow Walls, as Anne was stated as being a ‘plasterer’s daughter’ living there. I have some further work to do in the Valuation Office to see if I can spot a listing for John's holding in the Irish Cancellation Books. Family lore remembers that the Ratcliffes went to Australia after ‘the court case’ in the 1870s. Peter and Anne Ratcliffe died at Malahide, so perhaps it was John who ended up in Australia. No further record of him has yet been found.

Sources: Irish Times, 7 Oct. 1876; Griffith’s Valuation; Parish records, National Library; Copy marriage certificate, General Register Office; Census of England and Wales, 1851 on

Update 22 March 2014: John Radcliffe was found in Melbourne, Australia. See 'What happened to John Radcliffe - Answered'.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. What a challenge you have before you to find John in Australia--if that is indeed where he ended up.

  2. Looking forward to it Jacqi. Thank you. It's lovely to get some feedback.

  3. Intriguing, you may find the information in the Valuation Office, the cancelled books gave me a general time frame for the death of my Dan McGarr. Good luck. By the way how did you get the image of the register? Did you photograph it?


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